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Infidel Strong: Getting Orwellian on the Military’s Favorite Brand

A few years ago, I stopped listening to the PRI show Studio 360 because it just wasn’t fair. In particular, it held America to absurd standards that it didn’t hold the rest of the world to.

They used an editor taking the N-word out of Huckleberry Finn as an example of censorship one week, then in a later episode, discussing Iranian censorship, Kurt Andersen said, “Again, it is wonderful for me to see that the ambiguities that are so rife throughout this situation...it’s an authoritarian regime, yes, but they have to allow this, then they find they have to allow this...I adore when things are not as black and white as they are portrayed in the media.” In short, Iran’s censorship isn’t so bad.

Tell that to Jahar Panafi.

I bring this up, because, in the last few weeks, you could accuse us of doing the same thing. We’ve been pointing out dozens of examples of American hate speech against Islamic people without providing examples of Islamic hate speech. So let’s be clear: American hate speech has nothing on the hate speech of much of the Islamic world.

It took a lot of searching to find mainstream examples of anti-Muslim hate speech, mainly because Americans reject hate speech. To find examples, I had to search the fringes of society. (Not surprisingly, I found most of the examples on conservative milblogs. Take that for what you will.) But I can find examples of Islamic hate speech from just watching The Daily Show. Or say, listening to a speech by the former President of Iran.

Islamic extremists use one word above all others to express their hatred of the Westerners and the west: infidel, or “Kafir”.

Islamic extremists use this term to dehumanize their enemies. From Christopher Hitchens, “But in practice, Islamic fanatics operate a fascistic concept of the ‘pure’ and the ‘exclusive’ over the unclean and the kufir or profane.” Extremists use this term to separate one group (Muslims) from another (non-Muslims or “infidels”). (Though we aren’t Arabic scholars, we know that kufir has religious meanings that extremists often distort.) One would only use this phrase if they wanted to permanently cut themselves off from another group. Terms like these keep conflicts going, preventing dialogue and peace.

Except for hateful extremists, who else would use this term?

Oh yeah, soldiers.

Don Gomez of Carrying the Gun has covered this topic pretty extensively. In short, in an ironic reclaiming of the word, soldiers have embraced the term kafur and its English translation “infidel” through brands like Major League Infidel or Infidel Strong. Gomez neatly summarizes the problem with this “reclaiming”:

“My problem with this phenomenon is twofold: 1) whether people mean it or not, the word casts a conflict in religious terms, which is what we don’t want, and 2) the brand is worn to be antagonistic, not simply factual.”

(Don later wrote a second and third post on this term.)

We have three more thoughts on soldiers embracing the word “infidel”:

1. In English, infidel actually means “Not a Christian”. Seriously, we looked it up. From Wikipedia, in August of 2014:

The word originally denoted a person of a religion other than one's own, specifically a Christian to a Muslim, a Muslim to a Christian, or a Gentile to a Jew. Later meanings in the 15th century include "unbelieving", "a non-Christian" and "one who does not believe in religion" (1527).

Actually, let’s just go to Merriam Websters’ definition. The first expanded definition: “one who is not a Christian or who opposes Christianity”.

So anyone wearing the word “infidel” is actually defining themselves as “not a Christian”. Oops.

2. This blog is aimed at Americans and American soldiers. Yeah, I wrote a whole introduction about how we were going to focus on Islamic hate speech this week, but that doesn’t make a ton of sense, does it? Islamic extremists don’t read our blog; soldiers do. We’re writing this blog to improve the U.S. military and U.S. foreign policy.

3. Embracing the term infidel doesn’t help us win the wars we were fighting. From the original Military.com article that inspired Don:

“Sulayman, a Lebanese American who commanded a Marine infantry platoon in Iraq’s Anbar Province in 2008, said he had one Marine who made Kill Hadji stickers.

‘When your Iraqi interpreter sees that, what does he think? Your partners in the Iraqi army -- when they see that, what are they going to think?’ he would ask his Marines. ‘You wouldn't walk up to sergeant so-and-so and drop the N word on him.’

"...Sulayman said he doesn't think the companies that market infidel products to troops mean any harm. He also said he's certain that Florida pastor Terry Jones didn't mean any harm when he oversaw a public burning of a Quran last year because he believed it promotes violence.

"It’s his right, Sulayman said. But is it really helpful?"

No, it isn’t. This is the single biggest argument against soldiers embracing or co-opting this term. They are actually preventing peace and reconciliation.

It doesn’t matter if Muslims use hate speech, because we can be better than our enemies. We can be the bigger person. We can apologize when we make mistakes; we can turn the other cheek; we can treat others the way we wish we were treated; we can be the change we want to see in the world. Yeah, those are all touchy-feely idealistic (and mostly Christian) ideas…

But they also work.

32 comments

A couple things:

- We look forward to the comments—our comments threads have been blowing up over this topic—just remember to keep it respectful, no personal attacks.

- Big shout out to Don Gomez. He’s done great stuff on this topic.


I don’t think soldiers/Marines owning a phrase they think is disrespectful to them is meant to insult Muslims. It’s a throw it back in their face reaction. I believe the DoD has made it verboten to wear any of the infidel gear while deployed. Does it hurt? Isn’t just being there bad enough on the situation?
Oddly the spell check caught my error in disrespectful but verboten is ok.


Shreck – there is no specific order saying soldiers/marines can’t wear infidel gear. Just regular order covering proper wear of uniforms, which by default, means not wearing unauthorized “morale” patches.

However, infidel gear is sold at the PX back in the US and in bazaars on camp forward deployed.

I don’t think anyone just buys the infidel gear because it’s neat. A cursory Google search of any of the terms and then one or two clicks will take you deep into the dumpster of hate.

It’s about professionalism. That’s all.


I hadn’t heard of Infidel Strong until reading this post. It is interesting how the website defines the term infidel.

“In-fi-del [in-fi-dl, -del] – One who doubts or rejects a particular doctrine, system, or principle. 


Infidel’s oppose the doctrine of terror operations. Infidel’s oppose a system that represses free thought, and liberty. And most defiantly oppose the principle of killing people because they have opposing beliefs. If that makes us Infidels in our enemy’s eye, then we are proud to be Infidels.

This concept extends to beyond any one religion or religions doctrine. To be a infidel, or non-believer one must be an individual who inspects, verifies, and personally confirms any rhetoric that exist before accepting it with an open mind. Infidels are individuals part of a larger group, but not necessarily a easily defined group themselves, who are of strong will to protect concepts they have personally vetted.”


Reading that last paragraph, “To be a infidel, or non-believer one must be an individual who inspects, verifies, and personally confirms any rhetoric that exist before accepting it with an open mind”

…I can’t help but think about the war in Iraq, and all the soldiers who didn’t question any of the basic assumptions or, much more accurately, the “rhetoric” about that war. You know, like the Bush administration connecting Iraq to 9/11, using rhetoric. Or the WMD’s that weren’t there.

Almost known of them verified why we were going to war.


I knew a guy once who flew over North Vietnam. He was a test pilot and really cool guy. Anyway he had a jacket that had patches from all the units, programs and airplanes he had flown and one of them was a great big old Yankee Air Pirate patch. That he wore it didn’t mean he disliked all Vietnamese, it was an ‘In your face’ reaction to an epithet that had been thrown at him. Pretty normal reaction I think. In fact if you google Yankee Air Pirate you are going to get a lot of hits, sights and images to go to.

I figure infidel gear is along the same lines of ‘Oh yeah! Well in that case…’. Pretty normal.

I also think it is false to link something proactively, indiscriminately and menacingly offensive like a kill hadjis sticker (what a moron), with a reaction like infidel gear.


Eric C.,

I also thought about the Bush administration’s WMD argument, particularly Colin Powell’s testimony. Now we are seeing something similar coming from the Obama administration.

Consider the following from this recent Op-Ed.

“The Obama administration is finally admitting to the expansive level of peril that the Islamic State’s “convert or die” Salafist ideology poses to the West. Secretary of Defense (SECDEF) Chuck Hagel unequivocally described ISIS as “an ‘imminent threat to every interest we have…” They are no longer running from US drone strikes, instead they are running toward Baghdad. If ISIS is able to establish an Islamic Caliphate, we will have exactly the same scenario that allowed the Taliban to rule Afghanistan according to strict Sharia law (Islamic jurisprudence); more ominous, they will have another safe haven and staging ground for AQ 2.0 to plot and execute future attacks in America on the scale of 9/11 or worse.”

http://www.msnbc.com/the-cycle/the-jayve..

Does anyone remember Hagel’s SOD appointment hearings? This man was evil incarnate, crossing party lines to join the Obama administration. His words and speeches were picked over with a fine tooth comb in an attempt to discredit him and deny his appointment.

Now he is the leading expert and commentator on ‘the growing threat of ISIS to U. S. national security’? Did Hagel just have his Powell moment and get the U. S. Involved not only in the Iraq quagmire but now also Syria?


It is funny that I read this article today, as I thought to myself about where my “Infidel” shirt is from my deployment back in 2012 with an HMH squadron. I would argue not a single person in my unit (save for maybe some of the higher ups) actually thought about or cared what infidel meant. To us it was stealing their word, without looking into the fact it didn’t mean much besides we weren’t Christian.

The mention of Sulayman is important too. While we may be care-free running around with those shirts, or making those stickers.. are we really being as harlmess and care free as we think we are?


I’d challenge anyone who thinks the term is harmless to do a google search for major league infidel or american infidel and start clicking around, especially on the Facebook sites. In one or two clicks you’ll find extremist speech and hate speech. While some of it is protected under the first amendment, most of this stuff is geared towards service members and veterans, who have a special responsibility to behave professionally and are bound by the UCMJ, which specifically prohibits even giving the impression of being in the orbit of extremism.


Don,

Is Ayaan Hirsi Ali being harmless when she uses the term Infidel in her book or is she being helpful in exposing the truth about Islamic Totalitarianism. If you haven’t read her book, here is a good review.

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issu..


I haven’t read the book, but the review makes it seem like she is coming from a pretty charged position – which has been the norm for people that like to use the term infidel. No one really uses it casually.


More news on how infidels are viewed in the Muslim world which is consistent with how the book ‘The Infidel’ describes how the religion Islam subjugates women.

“Nor is this limited to academic talk. Last year, Jordanian Sheikh Yasir al-‘Ajlawni said Muslims fighting to topple “infidel” president Bashar Assad in Syria are permitted to “capture and have sex with” all non-Sunni women, including Shia Muslims, Alawites, Christians, Druze, and Yazidis.

Before him, Egyptian Sheikh Ishaq Huwaini lamented how during the heydays of Islam, “You [could] go to the market and buy her [enslaved, infidel concubines for sale]…. In other words, when I want a sex-slave, I go to the market and pick whichever female I desire and buy her.”“

http://www.meforum.org/4795/muslims-sexu..


Rick Wilmes, you focus on extremists. Do prolife Christians who bomb abortion clinics represent all Christians?


Austin, as I pointed out in the post on extremism, ‘extremism’ is the wrong term to use. I prefer to use the term Islamic Totalitariianism. Islamic Totalitarians seek to destroy the principle of the separation of church and state and establish a caliphate ruled by Sharia Law. But that is not the topic in this thread. The topic in this thread is whether or not it is proper for infidels to use the term infidel to describe themselves against the Islamic Totalitarians.

Here is another example to consider, a comic book titled The Infidel whose superhero is called Pigman.

http://fawstin.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-..


Rick Wilmes, I was wondering whether you distinguish between Muslims and ‘Islamic totalitarians’—as you call extremists. Remember that sharia developed after the first caliphate had ceased to exist.


Austin not all Muslims are Islamic Totalitarians, particularly Muslims who understand the principle of the separation of church and state. Islamic Totalitarians want to establish Islamic States ruled by Islamic Law. Here is the most explicit example I am aware of. Taken from an article titled, No Substitute for Victory the Defeat of Islamic Totalitarianism.

——-

“Five years to the month after 9/11, and in stark contrast to the situation in Japan five years after Pearl Harbor, an Islamic cleric, Abu Bakar Ba’asyir, a teacher at an Islamic school in Java, and a killer in the Bali bombing of 2002 who was released from prison in June 2006, now openly promotes a new constitution for Indonesia:

We demand an Islamic state, and not some form of Islamisation of society. We want the state to be Islamic, with Islamic leaders who have the courage and will to implement the Islamic law in total. . . .

We want an Islamic state where Islamic law is not just in the books but enforced, and enforced with determination. There is no space and no room for democratic consultation. The Islamic law is set and fixed, so why discuss it? Just implement it!

Right now we are drafting our own constitutional amendments for Indonesia, the framework for an Indonesian Islamic state where Islamic laws are enforced. Indonesians must understand that there is no Islamic state without the enforcement of Islamic laws.8

This is Islamic Totalitarianism—State Islam—rule by Islamic Law—and it is on the rise.”

http://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issu..


What about Muslims who want Islamic states and live there in peace? Kuwait and Qatar, American allies, are Islamic states: they use sharia. Are they also Islamic totalitarians? Most Muslim-majority countries, whether democratic or dictatorial, use sharia in their law. You seem eager to forget anti-Western secularists who appeared from Muslim-majority countries, such as Bashar al-Assad, Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Saddam Hussein, all of whom seem as dangerous as ‘Islamic totalitarians.’


Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi-Arabia, UAE, Oman, Bahrain – all these are absolutist monarchies and Islamic.
One should look at the people of these countries (a great many of them foreigners or politically oppressed groups such as the Shiites in Qatar) and the states / ruling cliques.


Concerning SA, Maher brings up the fact that they still behead people, 19 recently.

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/2014/09/..


What about Afghanistan and Pakistan, sharia-using American allies that call themselves ‘Islamic republics’? Are they Islamic totalitarians?


Yes, Afghanistan is being run by Islamic Toralitarians. Here is one example.

—-
““Whatever is against Islamic law, we don’t even need to speak about it,” Shaheedzada said.

The Law on Elimination of Violence Against Women has been in effect since 2009, but only by presidential decree. It is being brought before parliament now because lawmaker Fawzia Kofi, a women’s rights activist, wants to cement it with a parliamentary vote to prevent its potential reversal by any future president who might be tempted to repeal it to satisfy hard-line religious parties.

The law criminalizes, among other things, child marriage and forced marriage, and bans “baad,” the traditional practice of exchanging girls and women to settle disputes. It makes domestic violence a crime punishable by up to three years in prison and specifies that rape victims should not face criminal charges for fornication or adultery.”

http://ww2.nationalpost.com/m/wp/blog.ht..


Should America fight the Afghan government then too?


Austin,

What do your questions have to do with the topic of this thread which is non believers calling themselves infidels as a means of taunting or ‘getting in the face’ of Islamic Totalitarians?


“It doesn’t matter if Muslims use hate speech, because we can be better than our enemies.”

I don’t think a post that is, in part, about the careful use of language should conflate the words “Muslims” and “enemies” so cavalierly.


Hey Terry, I got a question. It is sort of a ‘let’s get down to brass tacks’ question. It is a question that has nothing to do with the punctilios of politically pious speech.

I figure that has become a needed thing to take care of the IS. By ‘take care of’ I mean kill all those bastards…dead. We should accept surrenders of course but then we should disarm them, take their passports, money, shoes and free them in a retaken Sinjar or in Sadr City. But the upshot is in order to destroy that organization the men who comprise it must be destroyed and until we realize that we aren’t being serious.

So my question is, what you think of that?


Are you suggesting, Carl, that we commit an Islamic genocide? If not, then what, exactly, do you mean?


Mr. Terry, answer the question as posed please.


Yes, the people who comprise ISIS should be destroyed, but a group is comprised of its members only and, therefore, any suggestion that IS is represents all of Islam—and, therefore, that Islam is the enemy—is incorrect.

Now please answer my question.


Terry:

We have agreed that a group of 20,000-30,000 men should be killed. Killed dead; not broken up as an organization and scattered, but killed. This is a very serious thing. Perhaps we should fix our minds upon the seriousness of what we are advocating, properly advocating, and not concern ourselves with insuring we feel good about ourselves because we are conforming with politically correct pieties.


SMH.

The entire point of this post is that words matter, a point with which I agree. If you doubt they do, then you should take up your point with the authors, not me. I’m not being politically correct when I suggest we shouldn’t use the word “Muslims” and “enemies” interchangeably, I’m asking for us to be clear about who it is we’re fighting. If you, as the author of this post does, support the concept of promoting “peace and reconciliation” between the West and those who in the Muslim world who support our aims or are amenable to reconciliation, members of that world must know that we understand Islam itself is not the enemy.


Terry:

First off, what does SMH mean?

Second off, to be blunt…du-uh. No kidding innocents shouldn’t be lumped in with the guilty. The reason I sent our discussion off on a track other than the obvious was to raise the point that feel good discussions about how ‘those people’ say insensitive things but ‘we’ don’t, don’t matter much in this case. A hard but needed thing needs to be done and we had better get to accepting that and figuring how to do it and stop avoiding facing it by fretting about what that guy said (even though expostulating upon that fret really feels good).


Not only do words matter but so do principles. Islamic Totalitarians want to impose Sharia Law and violate the American principle of separation of church and state. It is important that we understand this. Moderate Muslims understand the difference.

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5wx8UHrSO0Y